Overproduction of oxidants (reactive oxygen species and reactive nitrogen species) in the human body is responsible for the pathogenesis of some diseases. The scavenging of these oxidants is thought to be an effective measure to depress the level of oxidative stress of organisms. It has been reported that intake of vegetables and fruits is inversely associated with the risk of many chronic diseases, and antioxidant phytochemicals in vegetables and fruits are considered to be responsible for these health benefits. Antioxidant phytochemicals can be found in many foods and medicinal plants, and play an important role in the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases caused by oxidative stress. They often possess strong antioxidant and free radical scavenging abilities, as well as anti-inflammatory action, which are also the basis of other bioactivities and health benefits, such as anticancer, anti-aging, and protective action for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, obesity and neurodegenerative diseases. This review summarizes recent progress on the health benefits of antioxidant phytochemicals, and discusses their potential mechanisms in the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases.
Keywords: antioxidant phytochemicals; cancer; cardiovascular disease; health benefits; mechanism.